cooking · Gardening · Gluten-Free · Plant Based Diet · Preserving

Handcrafted Ketchup


Let’s say one has around 25 pounds of ripe tomatoes and free time….what does one make? The sensible solution would be pasta sauce, but no, I decided ketchup. This isn’t an easy recipe by any means. It is time-consuming – it took around 4 hours time (although much of it is free time), and it uses 24 pounds of tomatoes, so is very resource greedy. On the other hand….you will never buy ketchup that tastes like this. Recipe is adapted from Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving, on page 255.


Note the color here – the jar on the left is the actual color, the one on the left is a blue jar.

Handcrafted Ketchup


  • 4 tsp whole cloves
  • 2 cinnamon sticks, broken into half (4″ long each)
  • 1½ tsp whole allspice
  • 3 cups apple cider vinegar
  • 24 pounds ripe tomatoes
  • 3 cups onions, chopped (about 3 medium)
  • 1 tsp ground cayenne pepper
  • 1½ cups granulated sugar
  • ¼ cup canning salt


Tie cloves, cinnamon sticks, and allspice in a small sack or a piece of cheesecloth and tie with twine.

In a tall saucepan (non-reactive, such as stainless steel), combine vinegar and spice bag. Bring to a boil over high heat. Remove from heat and let stand for 25 minutes, discard spices.

In a very large stockpot (non-reactive, such as stainless steel), combine tomatoes, onions, and cayenne. Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring frequently. Reduce heat and boil gently for 20 minutes. Add in infused vinegar and boil gently until vegetables are soft, about 30 minutes.

Working in batches, process vegetables through a Food Mill. Discard solids, return liquid to pot.

Add sugar and salt, bring back to a boil, stirring occasionally. Cook at a bubbling simmer, stirring often, until volume is reduced by at least half, and mixture is almost as thick as commercial ketchup. How long this takes depends on the tomatoes (how juicy). For me it took around 2 hours, my recipe said 45 minutes. Just keep an eye on it and stir often, bringing up spoonfuls to check for thickness.

Meanwhile, fill a canning kettle halfway with water, and place in it mason jars, bring to a boil.

Lay out a clean kitchen towel, drain jars and place on it. Sterilize a funnel, ladle, and air bubble tool.

Once the ketchup is ready, ladle into the warm jars, leaving ½” headspace. Run bubble tool around inside edge, add more ketchup if needed to bring up. Wipe off rims with a dampened new paper towel. Put on a new canning lid and then a band, to finger-tip tight.

Place jars in canning rack. Lower into water, making sure jars are covered with water. Bring back to a boil, then process for 15 minutes.

Let rest for 5 minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack covered with a clean kitchen towel. Let cool fully.

Once cooled, check seals are flat. If any lift up, store in refrigerator and use up within a month.

Made 3 pints and one 8-ounce jar, so 7 cups total. Personally, I would suggest using all 8-ounce jars or even canning it in the tiny 4-ounce jam jars for ease in using!


If you like the taste of celery seed, consider adding in 3 Tbsp with the spices when being infused.

Like most canned goods, they taste best if allowed to sit on the shelf for a few weeks, as the flavors develop and mellow!

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